This article identifies efforts that Sun Life Financial Inc. is making to create a building which has a carbon footprint as close as possible to zero.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

World issues, technologies, environmental studies, family studies, politics, man in society

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What can be done to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions from buildings?
  • What are our provincial and federal governments doing to assist in this endeavour and address the challenge of climate change?

New Terminology:

Carbon footprint

Materials Needed:

  • Copies of the article for the students and Internet access for research.
Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Climate change has been a hot topic for quite a while now. The generally accepted belief is that people are directly contributing to global warming and there is an urgent need to change their behaviour — yet many still endorse actions that fail to recognize this. Most of this latter group refuse to accept the facts and argue that the impact of remedial action on the economy is too great. The most famous of these individuals is President Donald Trump, but Ontario Premier Doug Ford is rapidly closing the gap.

Nevertheless, many efforts are being made to address climate change and efforts such as those by Sun Life, as revealed in the article, are only specific examples of larger scale endeavours.

Species decline, melting polar ice caps, severe weather patterns, droughts, famines, forest fires and flooding are signs of the urgency of this problem. So, how do Canadians measure up? How do we compare to the rest of the world? What are we doing to address the issue? The previous Harper Conservative government’s actions brought us global scorn and diminished our reputation on the world stage. The Trudeau government is in a struggle with the provinces to get national cooperation on addressing climate change and establishing a standard which will allow us to attempt to achieve our international commitments.

This lesson will use the Sun Life initiative as a starting point to have the students examine Canada’s position in the world in terms of carbon footprints and to discuss what various actions are being and could be taken to address this very real and urgent challenge.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Start by reminding the students that considerable attention is being paid to climate change and the challenge that it presents.
  • Explain to them that a considerable number of initiatives are being undertaken to address the problem and indicate to them that Sun Life Inc. is undertaking a project to develop a “zero carbon” building.
  • Provide them with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
  • Debrief their responses to it.
  • Indicate to them that they are going to be divided into groups and tasked with various questions that they will have to research and report their findings to the class.
  • Divide the class into four groups and assign one of the following tasks to each group:
    • What is meant by “carbon footprint”? How is it calculated? What is the average Canadian’s carbon footprint? How does this compare to the rest of the world? What country has the lowest carbon footprint per capita? What country has the highest carbon footprint per capita?
    • What actions has their provincial government undertaken that affects climate change?
    • What is the federal government doing to address climate change?
    • What can we, as individuals, do to reduce our carbon footprint?
  • Allow the groups the remainder of the class time to research and prepare their reports for the class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Devote the second period of the lesson to having the groups, in order by number, report their findings to the class and responding to any questions or comments that may arise from their presentation.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • explain what is meant by carbon footprint and outline how it is calculated;
  • outline how Canada compares to the rest of the world in terms of per capita carbon footprint;
  • describe what both the provincial and federal governments are doing concerning climate change;
  • explain some things that average citizens can do to lower their carbon footprint.

Confirming Activity:

  • Assign the following writing task for homework:

As a result of our discussions today, what changes are you going to make in your behaviour in order to reduce your carbon footprint?